US Open Nearing Who Wants It

By Kraig KannJune 3, 2005, 4:00 pm
Itll be here before you know it. Pinehurst, North Carolina and The United States Open Championship. And with so much talk about the Big 4 or Big 5, youd better start getting your information ready for the office pools.
Let me be up front about one thing right away. Im no lock to tell you who to pick. More on that later.
But Ive been doing some scouring of the stats, some looking at the recent trends and watching a few players closely. I think we all agree that its easy to pick Tiger, Vijay, Phil, Ernie or Retief. And Ive done it. More on that later.
But Im the guy who likes to put focus elsewhere. I like to take stock in a few who might be flying under the radar. Lets face it, we look pretty good if we come up with the less than obvious picks from time to time.
Heck, amidst a firestorm of Tiger, Phil and Vijay picks by our other panelists at the Ford Championship at Doral, I went with gritty South African Tim Clark to win at Doral this year. Go ahead, check the results. He didnt winbut.
And Tim Clark wouldnt be a bad pick for a Top 10 contention at Pinehurst. He hits it straight and is a pretty good putter. Hes not my pick. But Id understand a good week.
Here are some names to toss around in your head. See if any of them stick.
Luke Donald comes to mind quickly. Top 50 in the World Golf Ranking. Hes straight as a string for the most part. He hits greens and hes wonderful with course management. Im not picking him but Id understand a good week.
Tom Lehman. Prior to an injury he was finding his game and getting the results. Lehmans not yet 100 percent. But he knows what it takes at a U.S. Open. Hes been there and if he gets a feeling that he can do it, he could surprise. Im not picking him but Id understand.
Jeff Maggert. For whatever reason, Maggert has a passion for contention in the biggest events. He had some fun at the Masters for a while. Hes had plenty of fun in U.S. Opens gone bye. Im not picking him. But Id understand a competitive week.
Justin Leonard. Leonard has exactly the mental approach that it takes. When he drives it well ' look out. Leonard didnt exactly finish strong at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. But he won. And he knows how. Thats big. Im not picking him. But Id understand if you did.
Nick Price. Nick was given an exemption and also an invitation to come look at the early stages of the set up at Pinehurst by the USGA. Nicks been critical of U.S. Open set ups in the past and I think it was a great call to give him a sneak peak and ask his opinion. Price is one of golfs greatest gentlemen. He always has been. And I still think ' like Lehman ' theres got to be a few ounces of lightening bottled up. Im not picking him. But Id understand a good week.
To me, Retief Goosen ranks first among the so called Big 5, followed closely by Phil Mickelson. At this stage I still see Tiger getting another major this year, but not this one. Ernie Els said Thursday at the Memorial that his concentration was lacking a bit which is more difficult to deal with than swing problems. That concerns me. And Ive been a huge Els promoter this year. Vijays 77 Thursday at Muirfield Village doesnt make me feel great. But Vijay is tougher than a six-piece golf ball and two weeks off might not have been great. Congressional will be perfect for him next week so look out come U.S. Open week. Im not picking any one of them at this point. But Id certainly understand if you did.
Heres my Big 4. As I look toward the U.S. Open.
David Toms. Toms is ready for another major championship. Pinehurst fits him perfectly. Look at his recent record which is ramping toward good things. Look at the venues of his PGA Tour wins and look specifically at what part of the country he won the PGA Championship. Toms is a master at being cool when its hot. I like him. Im just not picking him to win. But Id definitely understand.
Chris DiMarco. DiMarco is ready. I know what youre thinking. Kraig ' did you see what happened at New Orleans? Yes. But Im a forgiving guy. DiMarco isnt the longest or always the straightest. But hes one of the best putters and he loves fast greens. No golf course will out tough DiMarco. Check his majors record the last two years. Im not picking him. But Id understand.
Kenny Perry. All this guy wants is a major championship. He came close in Louisville. He loves it when it gets hot. Perry is hot right now. Hes long, long, long and straight, straight and straight. And hes accurate. Real accurate. Perry is dangerous on the greens when hes feeling it. Id love to see a major come his way. I really would. I cant quite pick him. But I sure would understand.
My pick is Jim Furyk. Furyk is so due to break out its laughable. I wont bore you with his results but hes been close of late with consistency. His record this year is terrific. He hasnt won since the 2003 Buick Open ' just after the U.S. Open he won in Chicago. Furyk will get another major. And I really think hes ready. Hes ready to win any week and the difference between just any event and a U.S. Open is that hes not afraid. Furyk did it before, and any glimpse of contention will have people taking him very seriously. Ive liked him for three months now and have been biting my tongue, my lip and my chin.
Now. Back to my track record on picking the winners. I picked Ernie Els to win the Masters and we all know what happened back in April. I also picked Phil Mickelson to win The Players Championship. Last year I picked Chad Campbell to win the PGA Championship. I also picked ' gulp ' the United States to win the Ryder Cup.
Its so easy to cave and go with the real Big 4. With 10 days or so to make the picks official, I still like Furyk a lot. But you know what if you think Im crazy Id understand.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Open
  • Getty Images

    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

    Getty Images

    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

    Getty Images

    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

    Getty Images

    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."